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Redbud VC Mentor Monday: Joe Kaiser

Updated: Aug 22, 2023




Joe Kaiser is a Managing Director at Mercato Partners, serving on the boards of Klover, Beam Benefits, Summersalt, Kalderos, Paytient, and MNTN, while previously contributing to the success of Cradlepoint, Central Logic, Ephesoft, and Venafi, all of which achieved successful exits. With 20 years of financial, operational, and strategic expertise, Joe supports entrepreneurs by leveraging his extensive background.


Prior to joining Mercato, Joe was the director of capital markets at Vivint Solar, where he raised over $1 billion in project financing and led successful corporate development initiatives. Vivint Solar's journey included an IPO valued at approximately $1.6 billion and an acquisition by Sunrun for $3.2 billion.


Joe shares with us the 3 things he tells his CEOs, some of his best strategies to stay grounded, and how growing up in rural Missouri impacted his career.


Share one of your favorite quotes.

"If you keep learning all the time you have a huge advantage." Charlie Munger


You’ve served on boards, invested, and advised startups for over 20 years, share the best piece(s) of advice you have for founders.


I have a couple of important pieces of advice that I share with all of my CEOs:

  • Stay hungry and humble or life will make you hungry and humble.

  • Never be afraid to ask questions.

  • Find the 5 things that only you can do for your company and focus on those. Hire someone to do everything else.


How did you find your own mentor or advisor, and how did they impact your career journey?


I lucked into finding mentors; however, they didn't automatically become mentors. I was careful to authentically cultivate a relationship with them and wasn't afraid to ask questions that I couldn't find answers to on my own. My mentors have been tremendously impactful because most of my business is experiential and pattern-matching. By learning the nuances of how others have succeeded and failed, you can leverage those experiences and build on them.


Startup life is filled with both exhilarating highs and challenging lows. What personal strategies do you rely on to stay motivated and resilient during the rollercoaster ride?


This is an absolute key. For me personally, I get up very early every day and exercise. This allows me to get centered for the day ahead and in a good headspace. Being a founder is the loneliest job possible. So building a peer group is also critical.


Reflecting on your upbringing in Missouri and the influence of your parents' thriving businesses, how do you believe those experiences have given you a unique perspective on life and business?


I attribute a great deal of who I am to growing up in Jeff City. I learned the power of grit and hard work. Nearly everyone in my life was naturally authentic, straightforward, honest, and empathetic yet tough. I've tried to be true to those principles both professionally and in my personal life. My grandparents and parents had a small business in Jeff City. Watching them run this store, I learned the criticality of maintaining great relationships that are grounded in both delighting them but also making a profit from them. I saw firsthand how far customer satisfaction can carry a business.


 

The Redbud Mentor Network is a collective of successful operators, builders, and subject matter experts empowering people with their knowledge. Mentors are a keystone to the Redbud community, built on the mission to accelerate access to knowledge and network effects for founders.


Redbud VC is an early-stage venture capital fund and studio investing monetary and social capital in early-stage tech founders.


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